A big smile spread across 9-year-old Cante Long Soldier’s face Tuesday afternoon as she held the brand-new pair of white and purple Nike tennis shoes she had just unwrapped.

The third-grader at Pine Ridge Elementary School sat in amazement at the unexpected gift from the general contractor in charge of building the town’s justice center as her schoolmates assembled in the school’s gymnasium shared peeks at similar presents sitting on their laps.

“I like pink and purple,” said Cante, who guessed the Nikes were probably the nicest pair of shoes she’s ever owned.

Like Cante, every student at Pine Ridge Elementary School took home a new pair of shoes on Tuesday provided by Milender White Construction Co. and its subcontractors, according to Adam Mack, the vice president and operations manager for the Arvada, Colo.-based construction company.

Milender White is overseeing construction of the $31 million Pine Ridge Justice Center going up on the southern edge of town, and on Wednesday, some of its members donned Santa hats to pass out 435 brightly wrapped shoe boxes to students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade.

Mack said the gift giving is a part of his company’s mission to give back to the community they have been working in since they broke ground in June on the 93,000-square-foot building.

“I can’t think of a better way to do that than with the kids in the community,” said Mack, as he waited for the older students to file into the gymnasium with green and red sprinkled cookies and juice boxes. The younger classes had just received their shoes and goodie bags with great enthusiasm before heading back to class.

“It was just fantastic,” Mack said.

Mack was not alone in his thoughts on the holiday party that featured Santa Claus. Eighth-grader Jonathan Dreamer, 14, said he enjoyed the program and his new pair of brown Starter tennis shoes.

“I got new shoes and I didn’t have to buy them,” said Jonathan, wearing a red bow on his head that came from his Christmas gift. “They brought a Native town some shoes. Those guys are some good people.”

Milender White's Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance coordinator Tracy Hauff and Colleen Brave, the company's director of diversity and Native American affairs, were key in organizing the event.

Planning began four weeks ago with a visit to the school to meet the students and get their shoe sizes, Brave said. The company reached out to their subcontractors on the justice center for shoes and donations, Hauff said. Local subcontrators who participated include Kurtz Construction, Scull Construction, Action Mechanical, Double H Masonry, Sperlich Consulting, North Central Supply, Western States Fire Protection, Murdock Electric, Doug O'Bryan Contracting, Sod's Mechanical and First Gold Hotel & Casino.

The Christmas party at the school was not Milender White's first charitable event since construction on the project began, but it is their biggest to date, Mack said.

The company has also donated $10,000 to a charity that works on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and plans to work with the construction-management students from Oglala Lakota College along with other projects until the center is completed.

Currently, the project is 25 percent complete with an expected finish date of spring 2014. The center will house courtrooms, attorney and judges chambers, police station, juvenile and adult temporary detention centers and administrative offices.

[Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect the correct day it took place.]

 

Contact Holly Meyer at 394-8421 or holly.meyer@rapidcityjournal.com.

(10) comments

FlipSide
FlipSide

To Red Kettle. Thank you, for taking a stand and brightening up the faces of these children with your generosity. Pay no attention to those that boo and hiss. It is their burden to carry and a hard one at that. You and all those involved in some way or another looked beyond yourselves to put a smile on a child's face. Thank you!

RedKettle
RedKettle

As a person who dedicated many, many hours to make this charity shoe drive idea become a reality, I must say that it saddens me to hear that others are embittered by our donation to the children at Pine Ridge Elementary School. We work on the reservation and see the need each and every day. We chose to give to the children without the knowledge of their parents and without questioning whether it was the right or wrong thing to do. Of course it was the right thing. These are children. And they are beautiful children. They were happy, grateful, and so polite, wishing us all a Merry Christmas and thanking us for their new shoes. I wish we could do the same for every child in need, but that is a monumental task better left to larger organizations. I am happy that we were able to contribute in a small way and I would gladly do it again. There is no room for negativism when it comes to helping children.

shan212
shan212

@ Toothfairy, "not to be rude"??? You went beyond rude with that one. And what does being "white" have to do with your decisions? Because you're white you made "right" decisions. Please. My parents taught me to never do anything halfway. If you're gonna be racist, don't try and sugarcoat it or apologize. Go all the way and spew your racist garbage and type until your fingers turn blue. At least then you're being real and truthful. And by the way, I'm in the same boat you're in, but you don't see me getting all bitter and angry. I, like you, have no children, work, go to school, and do not qualify for any assistance. But that's what happens in this country to ALL single people, regardless of race. You took a sweet gesture and turned it sour. Merry Christmas to you too.

HOWWRONGISTHAT
HOWWRONGISTHAT

Yet another freebee.

Toothfairy
Toothfairy

Agreed. Not to be rude but --seens how I'm a white woman who made the decision NOT to have a ton of children I can't afford AND who works two jobs and I can't even be eligible for ANY kind of assistance-- I get a touch bitter from time to time.

standingupforherpeople
standingupforherpeople

You act as if these children and their parents were begging the company to give them shoes. It was a kind gesture that the owners of the company choose to put a smile on some childrens faces. You're bitter? Would you like to trade places with any one of my relatives? Because you know, many of these families on the reservations would not be struggling as they are if they were allowed to use their own family lands to properly care for and earn a living for themselves. However do to mismanagement and discrimination many of our families have not been able to do so. My mother and her siblings hold title to much land across this state and it is being leased out to farmers or counties and my family barely gets $100 a freaking year for that. So don't talk to any of us about being bitter. If it will make you feel any better I have a nice pair of shoes I can give you. And yes I paid for them with my very own money that I earned working a job. You are being rude by insinuating that all these children come from families with "a ton of children 'they' cant afford" and that their parents don't work. Not all Natives recieve assistance. Not all Natives are drunks. Many of us work hard to provide hope for our families and communities despite the many struggles we ourselves experience (i.e. abuse, multiple family deaths, rape, discrimination, bitter people such as yourself, etc...). Walk a mile in my shoes and you might begin to know how strong I truely am.

theone2011
theone2011

Right on!!

Joy21
Joy21

@ HOWWRONG IS THAT... HOW WRONG ARE YOU TO SAY THAT/// VERY.. DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW TO READ... BECAUSE WHAT I SEE IS ITS NOT THE GOVERMENT THAT GAVE BACK OR FREEBEE, IT WAS THE GREAT GIFT OF MACK. BEFORE YOU WANT TO PUT PEOPLE DOWN, MAKE SURE YOU STUDY THE FACTS AND READ.

Mack said the gift giving is a part of his company’s mission to give back to the community they have been working in since they broke ground in June on the 93,000-square-foot building.

“I can’t think of a better way to do that than with the kids in the community,” said Mack, as he waited for the older students to file into the gymnasium with green and red sprinkled cookies and juice boxes. The younger classes had just received their shoes and goodie bags with great enthusiasm before heading back to class.

“It was just fantastic,” Mack said.

SO, WITH THAT BEING SAID WHY DOSE IT BOTHER YOU THAT THIS PERSON CHOSE TO GIVE A GIFT TO THE CHILDREN.. HE DID THIS & IT WAS VERY NICE OF HIM.

ARE YOU JUST TRYING TO MAKE IT A WHITE & BROWN THING? NO WONDER THE BITTER PERSON BELOW AGREES WITH YOU...

FlipSide
FlipSide

Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful!

snowgirl
snowgirl

What a wonderful gesture on the part of these contractors. They appreciate the money they are making on this project and have been generous and kind-hearted in giving some of it back to the community. They are great example of what Christmas is all about.

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